Thursday, 5 July 2012

Trial bike vandalism: Hundreds of ignorant bastards!

In my blog posts about this year’s TGO Challenge, attentive members of the congregation may recall me banging on about lovely old rights of way that had been churned up horribly by motorized hooligans.

You can find reference to it HERE (where we thought it had been done by quad bikes) and HERE, where we were pretty sure it had been done by Trials Bike riders.

This is how I wrote about it on the second link:

“Every year at about this time, dozens of ignorant bastards descend upon this part of the Highlands to tear the life out the delicate peaty soils with their trail bikes. Unfortunately this year it seems they had chosen the Road to the Isles  as their race track. They have totally destroyed a good 5km section of this fine Highland track from just before Peter’s Rock to well past Corrour Old Lodge. All the old drainage channels and the path itself are now a complete area of devastation. This makes the walking quite dispiriting, as you find yourself up to your shins in slippery peaty gloop. We averaged about 1km/hr on this section.”

Andy’s photo is just a snippet of the horrors of what they have done. Unfortunately this was not the worst of it; we had already slithered and slopped our way through that earlier. But it gives a flavour of what these hooligans have done to a fine old heritage right of way – The Road to the Isles.

Trials Bike Damage on the Road to the Isles

I thought I would dig a little further into this annual slaughter of our heritage pathways. What I found was far and away more horrible than I had ever expected. From the Scottish Six Days Trial website I have cribbed the following:

“The Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT) is mainly focused on the Lochaber area, centred in Fort William.  Each day of the trial starts and finishes in Fort William, providing a major attraction for the town. The trial is limited by daylight hours to around 270 competitors, but entries are regularly in excess of 400, such is the popularity of the event.

The routes are laid out one day in advance by the Clerk of the Course and his team, and each route is meticulously planned in association with landowners, Forestry Commission, tenants and environmental bodies.” 


Well! I was wrong about “dozens of ignorant bastards”. Make that “HUNDREDS of ignorant bastards.” Two Hundred and seventy ignorant bastards to be more accurate.

Here’s the route they took on Thursday 10th May. This map was taken from their website. The section they destroyed is between G & H: A section of the historic Road to the Isles

SSDT 2012 Thursday's route

Here’s their map for Saturday 12th May, showing how they churned their way through the Lairig Leacach: Between F & H

SSDT 2012 Saturday's Route

This video clip is taken from their website. It displays the power of these bikes. Imagine what that will do multiplied 270 times on a wet day on the old pathways.

Do you know what really makes me despair in all of this? This is taken directly from their website:

“The routes are laid out one day in advance by the Clerk of the Course and his team, and each route is meticulously planned in association with landowners, Forestry Commission, tenants and environmental bodies.

I have accented the last two words of that sentence. What I would like to know is which environmental bodies could possibly have helped in the “meticulous planning” of this event, causing such utter devastation? Can anyone help here? I think we should be told so that we can get this environmental hooliganism stopped.

One last thing: I notice that this event is supported financially by EventScotland. These hooligans are funded by the Scottish Government!


  1. Thank you for probing into this. I too have been appalled by the damage done to the Road to the Isles, which has changed from a pleasant long distance stroll to a survival course with thick peaty mud and 2m deep slippery gullies to cross.

    I will share this blog piece as it deserves wide attention.


    1. Thank you Felicity.
      I have never noticed a single outdoor organisation talking about this. And it happens EVERY YEAR!

  2. A couple of things spring to mind:

    1) that these are probably the same guys who say wind turbines are beautiful;

    2) that it is no surprise that the Government and 'environmental bodies' do not bat an eyelid. Them hills are now for trashing. If you allow trial bikes, the big tracks leading to wind plants are not an issue either. In fact, I can see the day when those tracks will be used for bike trial events (they already use them for 4x4 events).

    Finally, perhaps we should always use water filters. You never know if these arseholes have been up the pristine looking burn you're drinking from. I'm amazed that the water authorities have no objections to leaky bikes being used on waterbeds!

    1. Your water course comment is spot on. As you can see on the video, these trials bikes frequently clatter over and there must be spillage of oil and petrol. There just has to be.

  3. I was in the Black Mountains last Dec, A group of 3 or 4 bikers made a right mess of paths around Grwyne Fawr and Twmpa area.

    1. Phil
      The police are actively chasing down errant bikers in the Black Mountains. If you come across some, take pictures and send them to the police. They will take action against the bikers if they are found to have ridden in areas where they are forbidden.

  4. Sadly this event has been happening for decades. I remember writing about it sometime in the 80s after being appalled at the damage done. The reaction was that it was an established event and part of the heritage of the area and therefore untouchable.

    1. Sending small boys up chimneys and bear baiting were also established practices.
      I think the time has come to say that destroying heritage paths for sporting fun is not acceptable.
      So - How do we go about this?

    2. Well I've tweeted and FB'd the Ramblers to see what they could suggest, given their website is looking like its had a trail bike run through it and you can't get any information at all. I wonder why I'm still a member sometimes!

    3. I *do* like your description of their website...
      It's rare you get replies from the Ramblers. I have tried in the past. They seem more interested in city walks these days.

  5. A few well placed land mines would sort them out :-)

    Seriously, yet another example of warped priorities.

    1. What happens to walkers who just happen to be walking on the route of the Six Days Trial when the hordes of scramblers come through, I wonder.
      I can tell you: no one would be able to put me off from carrying on my walk along my chosen route. Sail before steam!
      A well judged walking pole through the spokes might slow them down.

    2. As CT said, it's being going on for decades. We were caught up in it all many, many years ago returning to Kinlochleven from a day in the Mamores. There was no doubt about who they thought had 'right of way'. Morons the lot'em!

    3. I'll have a bit more time to devote to the blog next week (I've been rather busy the last few weeks sorting stuff out) and I'm determined to follow this up.
      Cheers Gibson.

  6. Another interesting and frustrating topic, Alan. I'm not familiar with the specific area mentioned here, but - like many, I suspect - have seen the like in lots of places over the years, particularly the Peak District.

    Whilst I accept that there is a desire by certain parties like the PDNP, etc, to accommodate as many outdoor activities as possible, there seem to be some that are just totally incompatible with what the countryside is all about.

    The worry of it all is not just the damage caused but the mindset of the authorities that condone such behaviour, wanton damage and desecration to these irreplaceable natural resources.

    1. "The worry of it all is not just the damage caused but the mindset of the authorities that condone such behaviour, wanton damage and desecration to these irreplaceable natural resources."
      I totally agree. It's boggling that they actually claim that they have planned this with environmental bodies. I cannot find out who these environmental bodies are. I am still working on it.
      When I do, they will have a lot of questions to answer.

    2. It would be interesting to find out exactly which "environmental bodies" they are refering to.

      Of course the assumption is that such a body is pro- the environment, which may not be the case! "We are a body dedicated to the willful destruction of the environment" would probably still Google!

    3. One of the environmental bodies is apparently Scottish National Heritage (you can find that out by clicking HERE)
      I have emailed the SSDT organisation to ask for a list of all the bodies they liaise with, with an emphasis on the environmental bodies.

    4. Hi Alan

      I'm off for a week now (sunny Italy for a spot of wine, walking and sightseeing - hurrah!) so I'll pick up on this when I get back. But it will be interesting to find out who these groups all are.

    5. I'm currently on it (see further down the thread) as, it appears, are others too!

      Frankly, I am amazed that ANY environmentla group could give their blessing to the soft peaty stretches of the heritage path network.
      But we shall see who they are.

  7. Just another quick point: by way of irony, the weird word you have to type in to prove you're not a robot on my last post was "Urallyde". Spooky.

  8. Alan,

    This is interesting, received following a query I have made with the trial bike people.

    Hi Bob! Would you mind letting me know why you're asking? It's not a problem to discuss with you - it's just that we've had an influx of exactly the same question today and I'm trying to work out whether it's a topic that has been discussed at a big event somewhere and we're just getting asked by a whole host of interested parties, or whether this is a spam mail.

    Cheers! Mairi.

    1. Hi Bob
      My reply was
      "Hi Alan - there are a huge list of people we consult with, from landowners to estate managers to local authorities to governing bodies. It's a good 9-10 months of work, and the list changes every year along with ownership changes and regulatory changes. Some of those are publicly available details that we can pass out, but many of those are personal addresses which we wouldn't disclose.

      If you can let me know the reasoning behind your request, we'll see what we can do for you.

      Many thanks! Mairi."

      So I shall write back and be upfront about my disquiet at the damage their SSDT has caused to the stretch of the Road to The Isles. I'm not interested in the landowners (apart from perhaps if any areas are owned by the JMT? in Glen Nevis) - I am oly interested in the "environmental bodies"

      We'll see.

  9. We ran into this trial bike event last year in Kinlochleven. It was a shock to have them sharing the same path as us up to Mamore lodge but at least the riders were considerate and polite.
    My understanding is that Scottish Law is different in respect of footpaths and bridal way usage, which as we know are 'out' for motorised vehicles in England & I think also Wales. Can anyone clarify this?
    In the Howgills however motor bike riders use face masks and cover their number plates.

    1. Information gleaned from John Donohoe (a past President of the MCofS) says "Basically, in Scotland, the access legislation covering walkers, cyclists and horseriders specifically excludes motorised transport. Access to ride can be arranged though with the landowner, which is what the SSDT do."

  10. Precisely, Alan. As long as the landowners concerned allow the event to take place there is nothing anyone can do. I've no idea who the landowners involved are, but if they're keen on stalking they won't mind a widened path. Their argocats can do even more damage anyway...

    As you say, the beef one has is with the 'environmental bodies'. SNH though have recently shifted their policy to a more "liberal" policy as far as use of the outdoors for a variety of purposes is concerned, so I'm sure they'll come up with some fluff along the lines Chris T. was mentioning above, established tradition and all that.

    I'm sure your correspondent Mairi will take strong exception to the title of this post...

    1. Hi Andy
      I am pretty sure the Trials Bike riders in this event are ignorant of the strong feelings amongst the walking community about the destruction they are causing. Having walked this particular path the term "bastards" was one of the more polite epithets directed at them by Andy Walker & me as we waded though the resulting destruction.

      Mairi sounds like a nice lass and we are only enquiring about stuff that should be okay to put out in the public domain. After all, they are receiving public money to support their event.

  11. Can't comment on the legally legislated events for these wankers, but you may remember a blog post of mine a while back, where I encountered 3 of these mid life crisis tossers riding down the new steps having just ridden their bikes along Fleam Dyke.
    An ancient monument and definitely not permitted.
    At the time I had no ready to hand poles or shotgun, and I was more concerned of keeping the dog out of the path of these idiotic Bastards.

    Just another example of failing standards.
    I mean, if you are eligible for a huge payout, for fucking up the banking system, or just being corrupt, what hope is there?

    Time for sleep.

    1. That must rank as "Comment of the week"!
      Getting bankers bonuses and corruption in a comment on trials bike riders: Priceless.
      And very true.
      Cheers fella

    2. Yes went off on one there :)
      Just got home from a week working near Carlisle on an overcrowded train with no air con, running over an hour late, that missed all my connections. So, 8+ hours from Carlisle.
      Oh shit...... Off topic again sorry :)

  12. SNH and FCS have become more urban biased and less land management and more "entertainment" orientated of recent. The right to roam act does specifically exclude motorised vehicles but not horses which can, if in numbers, create a considerable amount of damage. Many trail riders are very friendly and accommodating but can't see the damage that they are doing. I suppose it is very much a culture thing. They simply don't understand! The numbers here horrify me and cause great concern that a city based government sees the countryside not as the farming factory that it in truth is but as a playground for petrol heads!

    1. The video clip in the post shows that these trials bike riders are very skilled riders. Why do they need to be routed between trials along established paths like the section of the Road to the Isles in my post? Surely there must be better surfaces that they could be routed along?
      I don't really take issue with them tearing along in the countryside and having fun.
      I *do* take issue with them though when they are tearing up the paths and turning them into quagmires.

    2. This thread smells. Using perjoratives such as arseholes, wankers, bastards for individuals who are taking part in a properly organised event EVEN if you dont like it has lost you your argument. My sympathies lie with the trial riders. Anyone even contemplating pushing a walking stick through a wheel would be foolhardy to say the least. Think long and hard if this so called desecration is the real reason for the hate. For that is what this blog is H.A.T.E.

    3. Good evening "Mad Farquhar" (That's Gavin, a keen motorcyclist,to his mates...)

      I do not believe I have used the term "arseholes" or "wankers" anywhere in the post or comments. However, if you feel the terms are appropriate we'll see what can be done.

      It is plain where your sympathies lie - I don't think you need to tell us.

      And yes. This blog post does express my pure hatred at the damage caused to the peaty heritage path network by the SSDT. It does not imply that I hate trials bike riders.

      I suggest you too think long and hard about this destruction to our heritage path network when you have cooled down in the morning.

  13. I find Heritage paths a form of vandalism. Where does it stop? The next mini ice age will sort it out anyway. You wont mind me contacting the SSDT organisation and pointing them to your blog. It seems only fair as it is in the public domain. By the way there is a big difference in riding motorcycles on the main roads, which I do and in the country off road which I never have and frankly dont see the attraction in. There you go again - making assumptions like leaky tanks and oil dripping into burns. Wild wild accusations.

    1. "There you go again - making assumptions like leaky tanks and oil dripping into burns. Wild wild accusations."

      You haven't watched the video then? I believe it's inevitable that there will be leaks. This is not a "wild accusation", just plain old common sense & calm reasoning.

      And how do you reason that "Heritage paths are a form of vandalism?" Bizarre!

    2. Well, Mad F.
      I believe it was me that used the term wankers about the three on the Fleam Dyke PATH (Note capitals) which requires negotiating a narrow gate that says No Cycles or Motorbikes.
      It is in fact a national heritage path.

      Hence for these 3 I feel the term quite justified if not lenient.

      And, having walked the road to the isles path with Al, I found the level of destruction a disgrace. I would have felt the same if it had been 100 horses or 500 people en mass.
      You will probably differ in that opinion.

    3. No you used the term tossers for those on the path. You used wankers to describe the SSDT folk. Some of whom are extremely talented youngsters and female. This blog is not one for being factually correct I have noted. As I hate being patronised I will not add any more to this skewed debate other than throwing in this political cracker:-
      If the English want to come up to my country to hill walk thats fine , we respect that but sniping at our elected government and agencies will eventually get our backs up. You sort out your backyards and leave us to deal with our wonderful and diverse fauna and flora. We also have a mandate to run our country as we see fit. If you cannot accept that then why not just do us a favour and fuck off. By the way has anyone checked out the repairs to the section pictured? No I thought not.

    4. I will carry on publishing your comments, Gavin, but they do not serve you well.

      "If the English want to come up to my country..." really does you no credit at all does it? It just makes you look silly.

      As to "deal(ing) with our wonderful and diverse fauna and flora." Well! We can see you're doing a grand job with that, with turbines encircling the Cairngorms, Donald Trump's Golf course, the illegal poisoning of raptors.... I could go on, but there's no need. The Scots should be cringing with embarrassment at what they are doing to their wild places. The SSDT ruining the paths is just one more example in a long list of wild crime.

      The repaired section to the path was done at the expense of the estate at the southern end of the section - before the SSDT event. I would respectfully suggest, Gavin, that you check YOUR facts before bursting into a splenetic hissy-fit.

      I'll continue to publish your comments as they serve only to ridicule your own argument, such as it is.

    5. I stand corrected on that one.
      I did indeed use the w word in a far too generic sense.
      Indeed, the tossers were on a footpath, and rightly accused.
      I apply the w word to those who sanction such acts rather than the participants who do so quite legally although in my opinion often in inappropriate locations.
      I often use an MTB, but I endeavour to minimise my footprint.
      Feel free to ride your bike on any of our English roads if you can find one that isn't under water.
      And if the path is repaired then I applaud that. But personally I cannot condone the damage.
      That's that then.

  14. Look, Mad Farquar, there is no question that hill walkers are far from innocent in this respect. The scar up the Beinn a' Ghlo Carn Liath wasn't caused by trial bikes but by Munro-baggers taking the shortest route to the summit. I am a hill walker but I have no problem saying that hill walkers can be wankers too. Before the current Munro bagging craze, there were far fewer scars on the hills (actually hill path damage is another argument in favour of trail shoes over leather boots!). The old deer stalker knew how to build paths and were masters of the art of zig-zagging up the hills. Glasgow taxi drivers by contrast (and I take only one, controversial example, but a fair description nonetheless in my experience...) like to go up a hill as fast as they can and their idea of fun is a straight line to the OS trig. Or think of Stac Pollaidh. So hill walkers *already* do a lot of damage. And so do estates with their increasing number of bulldozed paths.

    However, there is something singularly inappropriate about a bunch of middle-aged beer bellied mid-life crisis blokes congregating with motor vehicle for the sole purpose of 'having fun', making a lot of noise in places where the only noise is that farting of the deer. That this event is, as you say, "properly organised" is no justification for induging in the practice. The SS were a pretty well organised bunch. I'm not sure that condones their activities though.

    I walk mostly on my own and I like to take my time on the hills. You'd be surprised how much life there's in them paths. Beetles, moths, toads, snails, all sorts of insects, and just off the path you often find ground nesting birds trying to make the most of the "good" weather. Your friends treat paths, burns and hillsides as conveniences to be used for their 'fun', with no respect and no understanding whatsoever for the ecosystem they trash in the pursuit of an activity that might make them forget how inadequate they really are. I'm always amazed when you see these blokes struggling to get out of their leather outfits and the blubber that had been kept in check until then suddenly is free to float about and it ain't a pretty sight (Onslow from 'Keeping up Appearances' springs to mind...).

    You don't see the attraction of riding off road, and that's good. It would be progress though if you could see the damage off road bikers cause and that fact that it is not a question of attraction but of appropriateness.

    Other people think heritage paths sometime get over the top, but if you can't see the difference between that and a bunch of bikes trashing paths and burns, then perhaps there isn't much common ground for discussion here. Incidentally, I'm against hill races too and as I say I'm the first to condemn irresponsible hill use. There is no question that hill walkers do more damage, quantitatively than bikers. But that's no reason to add to the damage, is it?

    1. You are all absolutely correct. I am totally wrong. I couldnt give a flying fuck. Life is too short for this shit, I am a hopeless case ... I might as well kill myse

    2. Please don't take my word on this topic alone, Gavin. Contact Dave Gibson at the MCofS and ask for his opinion. Talk to Chris Townsend. Both are highly respected mountain men, living and working in Scotland in the Outdoor World.

      Don't take the word of a Welshman (I am NOT English) - after all what do I know?

  15. First off Alan I was not aware you were a Cymro, Da iawn i chi.

    Heres a copy of a reply from Event Scotland
    Dear Bob,

    Thanks for your email about the Scottish Six Day Trials. Organisers acknowledge that an event of this nature will have an environmental impact, but are committed to managing this pro-actively with landowners and environmental agencies to ensure minimum impact.

    Fort William positions itself as the 'Outdoor Capital' of the UK and as such ensuring that a wide range of activities can co-exist sustainably is a top priority. The Fort William area supports a variety of sports and is an excellent location for hill walking.

    Kind Regards,

  16. Fiona must have recently spoken to the Hypocrite-in-Chief, Fergus Ewing. Here he is, encouraging "sustainable and responsible" wildlife tourism:

    Quite in what way trial bikes are sustainable is something Fiona does not seem to go into much detail, does she?

    I bet the next policy document on Trident will say nuclear weapons are sustainable too... Is there anything left, apart from the Carbon bogey, that is *not* sustainable?

  17. I see trials on. The North Yorkshire moors large numbers of bikes, the next day...nothing. Live and let live.

    1. I am interested in your position on this Iain. Are you someone who rides or is a supporter of trials bikes? Or perhaps you are a lover of the hills and regularly walk in the North York Moors?
      Could you let me know, please?
      Thank you.

  18. I am a climber and love the highlands as do thousands of people throughout the England and Wales.

    Everyone should be able to share this huge area and I'm 100% sure a few trials bikes will not irreversibly damage the highlands.

    With-in a few weeks no one will know that the trials bikes were ever there.

    A massive advantage is the money there bikers bring to the local, hotels, pubs, shops and restaurants.

    I'm sure 100+ trials bike for 1 week of the year will make the same mess as 1000+ walkers over a month.

  19. Well researched Alan though, sadly, as you demonstrate, nothing new. This desecration has been going on for decades. I recall speaking to someone about it a couple of years ago and part of the justification was the impact on business and tourism in Fort William. Apparently, the event is immensely popular locally and there is a parade down the high street accompanied by cheering crowds. "Tradition", eh!
    I predict that very soon you will receive a response from the organisers, couched in hurt and outraged tones. It will state that you (and all of us) are elitist, unwilling to share our playground with other outdoor users and disrespectful to the intentions of the outdoor access legislation. This has been the pattern in the past when the issue has been raised in various forums; these appalling people, unfortunately, are very well versed in their message and will brook no criticism. The hypocrisy will be breathtaking.

    Colin Crawford

    1. Thanks, Colin.
      This piece is over four years old now, and since writing it Lord Elpus and I haven't plotted any Challenge route that passes through this area.

      With wind farms proliferating across the western escarpment of the Monadh Liath and the Corrieyairack Pass trashed with larger pylons and what looks to be a permanent road (the Estates want to keep them) and the impending massive Stronelairg substation next to Garve Bridge, it's making plotting a route acorss increasing difficult.

      This post gets many regular visits from various Trials Bike webpages - Maybe, just maybe, they'll think about it?
      But I honestly doubt it.


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